Hello, my name is Brian. I am a GEEK.
This is the way that I have been introducing myself at conferences and workshops for a while now. Although growing up in the 1980s, the term was meant to be derogatory and was hardly something to be proud of. Yet today, many boldly wave their Geek Flag high. Things have certainly changed since the days of Revenge of the Nerds, but have you ever wondered about the terms like GEEK and NERD and what they really mean?
Let’s find out!
I began my search for answers by consulting my very good friend Google. Let’s just say that there is really no shortage of definitions for these two terms in the over 430,000,000 responses for each of them. After spending more than my fair share of time doing some “Internet research”, I came across a definition for each that really resonated with me.
NERD: Someone who is passionate about learning, being smart, or academia.
As I read this, then I realized that really a large part of the job of being a teacher is to create as many nerds as possible. If you could somehow transform all of your students into nerds in the course of a year, then you would be a huge success and probably be heralded as the Teacher of The Year or even some kind of miracle worker.
GEEK: Someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A parallel definition for a geek says to me that geeks are individuals who have just chosen to specialize in a few key areas of interest.
Next I looked for a visual representation of the relationship between geeks and nerds. I stumbled across this 3 ring conception classifying geeks, nerds, dorks, and dweebs comprised of three factors. In this model, geeks are those individuals with ample combination of intelligence and obsession. While nerds embody the additional factor of social ineptitude.
Having an understanding of using multiple criteria for identification and using multiple sources, I decided to consult a checklist from Jules Evans on what's missing from geek culture. As I went through the list, I was able to whole heartedly checkoff nearly every single item on the geek checklist.
So, after “investing” some time on my “internet research”, I am proud to identify myself as a geek. For me it is a symbol of empowerment and an acknowledgement that I think that it is pretty cool to be smart and “slightly” obsessive about a number of pretty specific areas of interest.
Looking at the terms in a completely different way, this entry from burrsettles analyzes massive amounts of internet data on the subject of geek vs. nerd and comes to the following conclusion.
"Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas. Of course, geeks can collect ideas and nerds play with stuff, too. Plus, they aren’t two distinct personalities as much as different aspects of personality. Generally, the data seem to affirm my thinking."
Terms like geek or nerd or even gifted only have as much value as we choose to give them. Often times these terms are nebulous, ill-defined, and misunderstood. Thus, it is really up to us to determine what these things mean to each of us and decide for ourselves if this is part of our identity.
I encourage you to take time to talk with your students these terms. How do they feel about them? Do they identify with any of the terms? Why or why not?
Let’s help our kids realize that it is AWESOME to smart by nerding out and getting our geek on.